Imagine yourself in a world that has been ravaged by disaster. After taking the blunt force of one catastrophe after the next, your mind begins to fade into an alternate sense of reality. The only sense of companionship comes from the voices in your head. Your dreams begin to merge into your life, making it difficult to decipher what’s real and what isn’t. You are the only survivor, and your biggest threat in a world gone to ruins… is yourself.
Lone Survivor takes place in a society that has long gone to waste after being overwhelmed by an infectious disease that turns humans into, well… something much less than human. Once infected, the subject’s flesh turns inside out in a grotesque display of gore. The disease also puts its victims in an altered state of mind, creating hostile demons whose only purpose is to destroy and kill all of those who are unlucky enough to fall victim.
Starving and exhausted, he has begun to question how much of what he sees is even real.
As a psychological horror game, Lone Survivor means to captivate players with multiple levels of terror and also leave them guessing as new additions to the plot begin to be exposed. Developer Jasper Byrne has managed to create an adventure that does more than just scare the life out of the players, but also immerses them into the tormented mind of the protagonist, who is absolutely insane from the very beginning. It didn’t take me long to realize that the person I was playing as had lost his mind long ago, but I couldn’t help but wonder what exactly brought him to this state of complete dementia. As I began to journey deeper into the story, I began to understand that the roots of this insanity came from within.
Players will take control of a masked man who not only wishes to find a way out of his unfortunate situation, but to also learn more about himself along the way. In order to survive, players must eat and sleep as they would in real life. Being in a dark and depressing atmosphere for too long will begin to take a toll on the character, leaving it up to the player to clean up the mess.
Playing as an insane character was as entertaining as it was interesting. The psychological state of the protagonist slowly begins to deteriorate as players advance through the game. Players are in for quite a ride as they experience the hallucinations, dreams, and thoughts of a madman. There are multiple characters that reside within his thoughts, and each contributes to the story in a unique way. The encounters with the other characters are brief, but each visit reveals a bit more of the storyline and helps players understand what has happened. Without giving away too much of the story, I’ll just say that two of the characters you visit during slumber are seen after taking one of two different pills.
The Green Pill: Brings players into the realm of the “Man Who Wears A Box” on his head.
The Blue Pill: Seats players on a stage next to the “Seated Figure.”
There are multiple paths that players can take while playing <em>Lone Survivor</em>, and each has a unique outcome to the plot. Jasper sums up the game quite nicely when he says it’s, ” A new kind of adventure where the choice of how to survive is up to you. Sneak through without firing a single shot, or kill everything in your path. Eat and sleep well, or resort to drugs to keep going. Search for survivors, or try to escape the city alone. Look after your mental health, or descend into madness…”
After the game is completed, players are ranked on how well they did—both psychologically and statistically. It was quite obvious during the game that I drove my character to complete and utter insanity, and the psych report proved it. Here’s what my psych report entailed:
Days in treatment: 37
Session length: 4 hours
Ending: Blue (this has to do with the blue pill, that’s all I am saying…)
Blue path rank: X
Mental health: F- (I created a monster)
Lone Survivor is a side-scrolling platform game that, despite the complexity of the level layouts, is very simple to use and navigate. Players can find detailed maps that assist them when taking a stroll through a new area. I did find it a bit difficult at first as I tried to make sense of how the maps related to the environment, but it didn’t take me long to catch on. The map marks an objective with a question mark, and other landmarks are color-coded and detailed in a map key.
Using only a keyboard and very few buttons on it, the controls in the game are practically self-explanatory. Movements are directed with the arrow keys, the inventory is accessed with the space bar, and actions are performed with the “X” button. Three number keys allow for simple use of a special trio of items that players will use often. In all, the controls couldn’t be much easier and are fit for even the most amateur gamers.
In order to survive, players must scavenge for items and food that are stashed in various places. Items in the game are extremely scarce and must be rationed wisely. Once a new item is acquired, it is placed into the player’s inventory. Some items can be combined with others, making a whole new product.
First Aid: Consists of health tonics, food, and pills. When the character begins to feel a bit hungry after a battle, a full belly will bring them back to health.
Items: Includes survival objects and items that relate to the storyline. Included in this category are items such as car batteries, buckets, saucepans, a pistol, etc.
Diary Pages: Throughout the game, players will come across a multitude of notes and diary pages that were left behind by other survivors. These pages give players insight on what has happened and how things came to be.
Other than the bosses, there are two types of infected that inhabit the area. The first is a tall and slender form that will charge at players and can spit acid and also jump to the ceiling in a horrifying display fit for an exorcist film. The other is a fat and headless figure that has a large wound in the center of its stomach that excretes a vile substance. This creature is a tricky one, since when players shoot it down to little more than a sloppy pile of flesh, that pile of flesh remains hostile and will aggressively flop towards a player until it is put down for the last time. Of all the times I ran into these freaks, one encounter stands out above the rest. It was the first time I ever came across the fatties, and lucky me, there were three of them. My heart dropped as I laid eyes on them and they advanced towards me. After many cries of terror and expending all of my ammunition, all that was left were three puddles. I restored my health and made my way past the corpses and noticed that something was attacking me. They were all teaming up and biting my ankles! Filled with sadness and confusion, I sat there idly until they chopped me down.
Fight: The only way to really defeat a monster is to pump them full of lead. The infected usually take between 4-10 shots to take down. Taking into account that only about 32 rounds can be carried, each shot should be used wisely and effectively.
Stealth: It would be best to eventually eliminate all threats since players will continuously encounter the same infected until it’s dealt with. But when short on ammo, there is another option. To get around a confrontation, players can use flares and rotting meat as distractions. The flares can be placed in close proximity to any number of monsters and once they are blinded, players can casually walk right past to their next objectives. The rotting meat can also be used to sneak past but requires a bit more stealth. In certain points of an area, there will be “hiding spots.” Once players enter these areas, they become virtually invisible to all threats. The meat comes in handy when players place a chunk of it at one end of a hiding spot. After slipping into hiding, he closest infected will approach the meat and quickly devour it, leaving players little time to shimmy their way along the wall and sneak past. What is especially great about the meat is that there is an endless supply of it at the player’s apartment.
Despite all the hostilities scattered throughout the game, there is refuge from the pandemonium. The place where the masked protagonist calls home is a small apartment that gives players a place to organize their next outing and take a quick snooze. Being that the land that lies beyond apartment 206 can quickly become a terrifying place to find oneself, the apartment gives players a sense of sanctuary since they will never find any trouble there.
The main purpose of the apartment is for players to prepare themselves for the next time they venture beyond the safety of the walls that surround them. Filled with a variety of helpful objects and basic amenities, this safe house acts as somewhat of a resupply point in between missions. The apartment gives players access to a stove to cook the food items found around the world, provides a bed for an exhausted survivor to sleep, and even has a radio that broadcasts updates from other survivors. Also, in the apartment is an unusual mirror with an extraordinary purpose. Mirrors just like the one in the apartment can be found all throughout the game. When players come across a mirror and gaze into it, they teleport from that current location, back to their apartment. This can be useed as a speedy way to travel to and from the apartment when moving a long distance.
Graphics & Environment:
Most of the game takes place in a large apartment building and the surrounding area. After chaos erupted, the protagonist was trapped within the confines of the building in which he resides. This is where players begin their story. There are multiple floors in the building and each appears more gruesome than the last as players begin to work their way from the top stories down to the basement. In the higher levels of the building, nothing really seems to be out of the ordinary (other than a few of the infected scuttling about). The walls are a bit worn and decayed, and unlit hallways are the product of the non-existent electricity in the area.
The lower levels of the building flourish with a disgusting organic material that is created by the infected. The walls become coated with this material, sometimes blocking passageways or prohibiting access to a particular area when a player is without the proper tools to slice their way through.
Though the graphics are simple, the combination of a mood-fitting color palette and high detail in the settings capture the atmosphere with a vivid sense of emotion. I noticed that the mood set by each atmosphere resembles what a player should be feeling. When trekking into a spooky area and danger is afoot, the colors turn dark and dimmed lights require players to use their instincts to find their way. On the contrary, a more lighthearted area is created with bright colors and well lit passageways. The settings dragged me into the game and made me feel like I was personally involved in the situation. After spending an extended period of time in the dark, I would honestly feel relieved as I made my way into an illuminated area that exhibited a “happier” atmosphere.
Sound & Music:
The sound effects contributed to the story in an impressive, yet horrifying symphony of fear and anxiety. I shutter at the thought of the noises emitted by the infected. When oblivious to the player’s presence, they create a somewhat mechanic/robotic sound as they move. Once a player is spotted, the sound is amplified 10-fold and increases in repetition as the ugly monstrosity begins to move faster. While exploring, players will hear bloodcurdling moans in the distance and sounds of destruction as violence erupts across the city.
Spending 12 years in the music industry, working as a drum and bass producer and DJ, it is no surprise that Bynre composed an impressive soundtrack for the game. Though there aren’t an abundance of tracks, the few that are there all add to the game and the mood of the specific moment. To add to a joyful scene, there is an uplifting tune that creates a sense of pleasure and blends nicely with the current plot. On the contrary, there are tracks that only add to the horror with a solemn, yet spooky mix.
Although I really enjoyed my time playing Lone Survivor, I do have a few complaints. I am usually not the type of gamer who is offended or bothered by glitches, unless it affects gameplay. But there is a particular glitch in the game that bullied me continuously during play. Whenever trying to move from one scene to the next, it is impossible to do so while in a dialogue. Not only was I prohibited to move into the next area during a text, but I was unable to move into that area after completing the dialogue, forcing me to exit the game and load from an earlier save. At times I was also a bit lost in my current objective, running this way and that way until I could finally find the location of an object I needed or the location of the next objective. Maybe it was just me, but I was never exactly sure what my current objective was. I know that I could check my diary back at the apartment, but constantly traveling back and forth can be a bit tedious.
Other than the minor flaws, this game has been nothing but an absolute adventure to play. Lone Survivor has managed to make me whimper at the sight of danger, and also had me guessing from the beginning to the end. Jasper has not only created a game filled with horror and mystery, but has excelled in both storytelling and successfully portraying the decay of a human mind. I had a lot of fun driving my character to insanity, it made me feel less insane myself.
Lone Survivor is available now for the PC and MAC, and for the generous price of only $10, I highly recommend it. There is also a “First Aid Edition”of the game for $50 which includes a limited art print and a bonus game, LS3D. The game can be purchased here and also on Steam.